Think you can’t do anything about gender inequality in the workplace? Stop thinking and take action! Here are 6 things (some easier than others) we can all do either individually or as an organization to support gender equality in the workplace in 2016.

  1. Talk about the gender gap in terms of expected behavior. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote about how bias awareness may actually cause more discrimination. Studies have shown that reminding leaders that companies still institutionalize gender gaps could backfire and reinforce that it remains standard behavior. In 2016, we need to discuss the gender gap in terms of expected behavior, i.e. “smart companies like XYZ Corp. profit from gender diversity,” and not just reprimand for past or existing behavior.
  2. Create accountability for diversity. In Harvard Business Review, Deborah Ashton, Chief Diversity Officer for Novant Health, recommends determining pay by value to the organization and not by past salaries. Why? Because women may have been “gender gapped” at a previous job. Ashton also suggests that HR departments create more transparency in their criteria for raises and bonuses; perform annual pay equity analyses; and assign individuals responsibility for pay equity.
  3. Apply the 20% rule. The 2020 Women on Boards campaign goal is to increase the percentage of women on Boards of Directors to 20% by the year 2020. Why 20%? Stephanie Sonnabend, founder of 2020 WOB, defines diversity as having at least 20% women in the boardroom. “This creates diversity of thinking which is critical for good decision making, and better represents a company’s shareholders, employees and customers,” says Sonnabend. If you visit the 2020 WOB site and sign up as a supporter, you will receive monthly emails with links for you to send a pre-written email to a company that does not have 20% diversity on their board. Just one click and you can educate them as to why diversity is a profitable endeavor.
  4. Apply the 20% rule everywhere. While we should definitely seek to increase women in leadership positions, we can also look around us to see if there is at least 20% diversity in our departments, in our meetings, on our committees, and even on our vendor lists. It’s easy mental math to do, and a good habit to form. If you don’t see at least 20%, point it out and suggest women who could be included. Learn more about inclusive capitalism from Sallie Krawcheck, chair of Ellevate Network.
  5. Give women the benefit of the doubt. Women rarely get the benefit of the doubt in business situations and that leads to subconscious gender discrimination. Outdated stereotypes continue to be a huge detriment to company performance and often stems from our own internal biases. We need to get over it and stop creating performance obstacles that exist only in our heads and not in reality. I recently wrote about this issue in 5 things women can do to overcome the doubt.
  6. Stay informed. There are a number of resources to keep you informed on gender issues in the workplace. Follow sites like https://www.leanin.org (@leanInOrg); https://5050×2020.org (@5050×2020), https://www.2020wob.com/ (@2020WOB) and Emma Watson’s https://www.heforshe.org (@heforshe) on Facebook, twitter and/or Instagram. Sign up for Caroline Fairchild’s The Broadsheet – a daily email that keeps you up to date on some of the most powerful women in business as well as sharing interesting gender-related stories from around the Internet. (Caroline’s twitter = @cfair1). You should also follow Sallie Krawcheck, chair of Ellevate Network (@EllevateNtwk) on LinkedIn.

If everyone does at least one of the above actions and/or shares this article with their networks, we can collectively make a difference and help prevent women from being left out and gender gapped. Have other ideas for 2016? Please add them to the comments below.